Once upon a time, I set out to read all of H. G. Wells’ science fiction.
I came pretty close. I think there are a couple of titles I missed like the novel version of The Shape of Things to Come and Star-Begotten. (There is no way I would attempt to read all his non-fiction.)
However, while I’ve written few reviews of them, this is one.
A retro review from December 16, 2003.
Review: The Sleeper Awakes, H. G. Wells, 2000.
Science fiction fans simply looking for an entertaining story will want to skip this book. Its speculations, with a couple of exceptions, are dated — Wells admitted such only ten years after it was written. The socialist values it expounds make one wonder whether Fabian Wells would have ever been satisfied with capitalism no matter what it did. The characters, again as Wells admitted, are Everyman and an implausible businessman villain.
And yet Wells kept playing with this story over 21 years. It also was probably quite influential on a young Robert Heinlein, a Wells admirer. (It has moving roadways amongst other things.)
The story? A man wakes up from a two hundred year coma to find out he’s the richest man in the world. The capitalists who run this world hope he’ll play along with them, continue to let them run the world using his money. But Sleeper Graham has other ideas and becomes a Socialist messiah to the oppressed.
Students of science fiction’s history will recognize a plot with a starting point similar to Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward — to which Wells gives a nod. They’ll also be interested in the understandably wrong predictions about aerial warfare. Students of Wells will definately want to read this, one of his second-tier works.
This book is a particularly good edition because it features a useful afterword noting the many changes Wells made in this story. It was first published as When the Sleeper Wakes, an 1899 magazine serial. It was changed for the book publication of the same year and further changed for the 1910 and 1921 editions.